How specialist publishers can compete with national news organisations for SEO

A guest post from news:rewired speaker and SEO and content strategy consultant Malcolm Coles

When national news organisations like the Mail or the BBC take an interest in your specialism, they can siphon off all your search traffic. All of a sudden, you go from being the number one result on Google for a given search term to being buried under a mass of news stories from the mainstream media.

In my last post here I talked about how you should make sure your site is put together in the right way for search engines – that’s a key first step in getting SEO traffic. In the SEO session on the day, I talked about three tactics that celebrity gossip site Holy Moly uses on a day to day basis to help it compete against all of the other sites offering news about celebs.

Know what people are searching for
The first key tactic is to understand how people are searching. There are lots of ways to work out what people are searching for right now – although Yahoo announced the death of one of those, Yahoo Buzz, on the day of news:rewired itself!

So by using Google Autocomplete to work out that people were searching for “Leslie Nielsen quotes” the day of the actor’s death, Holy Moly used that as the angle for its story. It was the number one result for three hours for that search, and got 5,000 viewers – all from just a few seconds’ digging about.

Work out when and how people search
Another key tactic is to work out when people search. If you know an event is coming, you can use your own analytics data and tools like Google Insight to understand how people search in the run up to an event, during it, and afterwards. Holy Moly looks at this data to work out when and what to write about reality TV shows, for instance.

This graph shows search engine traffic to the site for searches on Karen Gillan’s underwear. The searches coincide almost exactly with when Doctor Who was on TV. What’s more, the individual spikes are Saturdays and Sundays – when Doctor Who is broadcast. Data like this means Holy Moly understands it’s worth writing about Karen Gillan in the runup to weekends when Doctor Who is on, and not any other time. Which is probably why, with the Doctor Who Xmas special on its way next week, their latest Karen Gillan underwear story has just gone live…

Look after your searched for pages
Once you’ve got a page that gets you lots of search traffic, make sure you look after it. With news sites, it’s easy for stories to move deeper and deeper into date based archives until eventually search engines forget all about them.

So if you have a page that gets lots of search traffic, keep linking to it from new relevant news stories. That way you can keep reminding search engines that it exists and that it’s important.

Another problem can be search engines showing the “wrong” page. For instance, Holy Moly has an old page about Karen’s underwear that appears top of the search results. There are similar issues with Holy Moly’s stories from previous years’ reality TV shows turning up when people search as opposed to the current years’ pages (or Big Brother pages showing up when people search for Celebrity Big Brother).

When this happens, you should go to the “wrong” page and insert a link to what you think the “right” page is – and also make sure you find ways to link to the newer “right” page from other stories you write. The more you do this, the more you signal to the search engines that the newer page is a better result when people are searching.

If you need any advice about SEO and your own site, feel free to contact me on Twitter or at my content strategy and SEO blog.

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